Physical Signs of Ovulation
Although there are several days of the month in which a woman is fertile, she is most fertile during the days around ovulation. The simplest natural method of predicting ovulation involves simply counting days, although this method is often not very reliable. A better natural method involves using physical signs such as basal body temperature and cervical mucous changes. The body temperature chart is a daily recording of body temperature, which is an indicator of ovulation (body temperature will rise after ovulation). Cervical mucous monitoring involves examining the mucous that is secreted from the cervix, which enables a woman to tell where she is in her cycle and thereby predict the time of ovulation.
The first day of a woman's period is 14 days after ovulation. The number of days between ovulation and the start of the next period is fairly consistent among all women. However, the opposite it not true. The number of days between the start of the period and the next ovulation varies quite a bit between women. It even varies from month to month for the same woman.
Counting days of the cycle is by far the easiest and least technical of all of the methods for tracking ovulation. But, it is really a retrospective indicator. It can tell any woman when her last ovulation was. But, it works well as a predictor for the next ovulation in women whose cycles are very regular. If the woman has a regular cycle, then this method can work for her. For example, if she has a perfect 30-day cycle, she will ovulate on day 16 (30-14=16). Day 1 is the first day of her next period.
Women with cycles that vary a bit in length, but are nevertheless roughly every 30 days or so can also get some utility from this method. She can record the first day of her period for 3 consecutive cycles. From this information, she can get a pretty good idea of the week when she will be ovulating the next month. Having sex at least every other day during that week is a good strategy, if she wants to get pregnant.
Women who frequently miss periods or have widely varying cycles will gain little information from this method.
Basal Body Temperature
Another way for a woman to know if she is ovulating is to keep a record of where she is in her menstrual cycle. The Basal Body Temperature test measures a change in temperature that occurs after ovulation, so it cannot predict when ovulation will occur in a given cycle. Yet by looking at records from a few cycles the test can reveal a pattern from which ovulation can be anticipated.
The best way to record and monitor body temperature is with a chart. This provides a good visual basis for determining ovulation:
a) Make sure that day one on the chart is the first day of menstruation
b) Every morning, before getting out of bed or going to the bathroom, the woman should take her temperature. A regular thermometer can be used, but special basal body thermometers should be available at the pharmacy if the woman wishes to use one. The same thermometer should be used every time.
c) Make note of any lack of sleep, drinking alcohol, fever, illness, or emotional stress. It is also helpful to describe the condition of any mucous or discharge.
Just after ovulation, there should be a rise of approximately 0.4-0.6 degrees Fahrenheit (about 0.2 degrees Celsius). The day of ovulation there will be a slight rise. The following two days will climb progressively higher. The rise on the day of ovulation is not distinguishable from the normal ups and downs in the entire pre-ovulatory phase. It is only recognized in retrospect when it forms an upward line with the two days afterward. The post-ovulatory tempertures remain at this new, higher level, until menses when they drop and start the cycle over again. Again, it is only useful when a woman tracks several of her cycles and (if they are regular) she will be able to determine when she will ovulate.
Cervical Mucous Monitoring
Another method for determining when ovulation occurs is through the cervical mucous monitoring test. This is the only method that will not require looking back to the past few cycles to analyze. It is based on examining the mucous that is normally secreted from the cervix in order to determine where the woman is in her cycle. The consistency changes during the cycle due to hormonal fluctuations. The key to this test is that the woman will actually have to get a sample of her cervical secretions (from the outer lips of her external genitalia) and stretch it between 2 of her fingers (the thumb and index finger) to test for the consistency.
Before Ovulation (low chance of pregnancy):The first few days following menstruation, there will be little or no discharge present. The woman should feel dryness around her vulva. During this time, she is usually not able to conceive.
Approaching Ovulation (chance of pregnancy):The first discharge that does appear should be moist or sticky and should be white or cream in color. In the finger test, the mucous should break easily. She will only be able to pull her fingers about 1 cm apart before it breaks. During this transition time, first the mucous will become cloudy and slightly stretchy during the finger test (this means that it will still break before the fingers are stretched all the way). As time progresses, the mucous will become greater in volume.
Right around ovulation (high chance of pregnancy): At this stage, mucous resembles egg whites. It is the thinnest, clearest and most abundant at this point in the cycle. Finger testing will allow the mucous to stretch quite a ways (several centimeters) before it breaks (if it breaks at all). ) The amount of this thin mucous will steadily increase until she experiences her 'mucous peak'. This is the last day of this period where the chance of conception is high. It is closely tied to ovulation. It is often only recognized in rertrospect. During this phase, the sperm's survival rate is higher. It can survive in cervical mucous for up to 72 hours, a significantly longer time than during the rest of the cycle.
After Ovulation (low chance of pregnancy): After ovulation, there is a marked change in mucous appearance. It returns to the sticky stage (does not stretch during finger test) and there is again a feeling of dryness around the vulva.
One caveat for this test is that sperm can be confused with the mucous secretions and the woman could make wrong assumptions. Also, vaginal infections, medication, and birth control can alter conditions and should be taken into consideration when examining any vaginal secretions.
Mucous can be easier to retrieve after bearing down (like she is going to have a bowel movement) or after exercising.